A company which made staff walk barefoot over burning coals in a training exercise has escaped prosecution. Seven sales trainees suffered burns during the “motivational” session run by insurance giant Eagle Star. Two of the workers needed specialist treatment at a burns unit.

The accident happened at the Cheltenham and Gloucester Moat House Hotel in Brockworth last July. The embers were supposed to have been glowing, but in fact were burning.

Environmental health officials from Tewkesbury Borough Council launched an investigation, and legal officers are understood to have recommended court action, but councillors voted to rule out prosecution. Instead, they will send warning letters to Eagle Star and the event organisers, Infinite Breakthrough Technologies.

Council chief executive Howard Davis said they believed there was sufficient evidence to prosecute Eagle Star and Michael Carroll of Infinite Breakthrough for breaches of health and safety legislation.

“But having taken into account the steps taken by the company and the fact that Mr Carroll no longer works within the firewalking field, it was considered more appropriate to issue warning letters,” he said.

Eagle Star spokesman Jeff Wagland said: “Obviously we are pleased that they are not going to prosecute, but we are certainly not complacent about the effect this has had on the company. Our main concern then and now is that the seven people should recover as soon as possible and I am pleased to say that is the case.

“This is a lesson we are going to learn by. The chances of us doing something like this again are on the far side of zero.”

The company said at the time that the exercise was not compulsory. All the workers involved have since returned to work.

BBC, 23 February 1999

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